When one thinks of jazz, the first instrument that probably comes to mind is a trumpet. Some of the most notorious jazz musicians were trumpet players including the greats such as Myles Davis and Louis Armstrong. But, what about flugelhorn? Many would make the case that jazz legend Clark Terry is to the flugelhorn what Armstrong was to the trumpet. In this video, Dr. Tyrone Block discusses how Terry, known as the father of jazz education, played a critical role in the formation of “America’s classical music.”


– [MUSIC PLAYING] [PLAYING TROMBONE] [APPLAUSE] Thank you, thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. That was called “Bye-bye Blackbird,” which is a great standard that was done by Clark Terry a lot during his tenure, especially when he was doing lectures for students such as yourselves. When he was out doing concerts it was one of his favorite tunes to do. Of course, it was made famous by another trumpet player. And so this leads us to what we’re going to talk about today. Do you guys know what a trumpet is? I’m going to guess that you do. There are several jazz trumpet players that are important for us to look at, but one we’re going to look at today. When you think about jazz trumpet players, probably one of the first names that come to your mind is Miles Davis. He was instrumental in starting having just basically leaders, and his band spawned some of the greatest jazz players around from Chick Corea to Kenny Garrett or Wayne Shorter, just to name a few who are in one of the bands that he led. But we’re not going to talk about Miles Davis today. Here he is right here. Very cool cat, great recording, 1959, Kind Of Blue, which really kind of changed the jazz scene. It’s one of those pieces that– or one of those albums that just changed how people looked at jazz. Another player that you might think that we’re going to talk about that we’re not is Louis Armstrong. Of course, you know him as Satchmo or [SCATTING] oh, yeah. [INAUDIBLE] you guys. Thank you so much. [APPLAUSE] Mess up one time I’m doing it. But Louis Armstrong– in the jazz world, we actually know Louis Armstrong as Pops is what we usually refer to him as. Also we might think about Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy Gillespie is back there in the Bebop Age, along with Charlie Parker, who are the voices of the jazz language that’s happening at this time. Really fast, rhythmical plane, moving up and down scales, telling a story. But today we’re going to focus on a very prolific player or trumpeter who’s also revolutionized another instrument known as the flugelhorn. Now, flugelhorn, which is on my– I guess is on your left, too, correct? So as I’m looking at it on the left, it’s a little bit bigger than the trumpet, which is smaller. Matter of fact, in the jazz world, if you look back in the 1940s, 1950s, they actually refer to it as fat girl because it’s bigger than a trumpet. So this is what they’re calling. And Clark Terry is to the flugelhorn what Satchmo was to the trumpet. He just really, really plays this instrument to the full capacity and really exploits it 100%. Clark Terry is also known as the father of jazz education. He begins to, later in his career, going around to different schools, talking about jazz, encouraging jazz ensemble, encouraging others to actually play this music. Just as a note for you, when we’re looking at the full spectrum of music, the only contribution that America has to this vastness of liturgy– not liturgy, but of literature that we have, is jazz. That’s the only thing the United States has contributed, so it’s uniquely ours, combining rhythmic notation or rhythmic playing of Africa with harmonic structure of Europe, along with our own taste of improvisation create this whole ideal and this whole music of jazz, which is uniquely our own. Now, you might wonder, is Clark Terry really one of these people we really should be looking at? Let me give you a few of his accolades. Clark Terry has been on over 900 recordings. He has over 250 awards, medals, and honors, including he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Jazz at Lincoln Center. He was the 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame, the National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters, 16 honorary doctorates, several keys to cities. He was a jazz ambassador to the United States in the Middle East and Africa, and a knighthood in Germany. So this is a cat that we– I would use the word cat a lot. It just kind of comes out. There’s a whole story of how that came about, but that’s for another lecture. But this is– he’s one of these that we should study. Clark Terry was born December 13, 1920. He was number 7 of 11 children. Clark Terry wanted to play trumpet after he heard the Duke Ellington Jazz Band. He wanted to play trumpet so badly that he went to the junkyard and got a water hose, and found three things of wire, put it around the water hose, and started playing it like it was a real trumpet. If that’s not determination, I don’t know what it is. So he played, and finally he got in high school and he played more. And eventually, he makes it to the Navy band, which then I have the same thing. I was also in the Navy and in the Navy band, and went to Great Lakes. And if you’re a part of the Navy, we usually don’t call it Great Lakes. We always call it Great Mistakes. So you never go there again. But Clark Terry goes there, he contributes to the military music. But prior to going there, he decides to do one season– and there’s a reason why it’s only one– with Ruben and Cherry Carnival. So he’s travel with this carnival and they’re playing this music, and of course, there was segregation that was happening during this time in the early 1940s, late ’30s. Segregation is deep, especially in the south. So while he’s traveling, he’s experiencing the separation even more so than in St. Louis. One incident is that he couldn’t go necessarily to a circus that was for whites. There was a sort of a circus for blacks or African-Americans and a circus for whites. But he was walking around and he noticed that one of the performers of music was playing this note for an extremely long period of time, and people would go crazy. He can hold the note over five minutes. And Clark Terry just watched them, and he figured out what he was doing. It’s a thing called circular breathing. Basically, you’re able to blow air and at the same time fill your cheeks up with air, push that air out and breathe in through your nose for another breath, and so the note never stops. He figures out that’s what– if you guys ever watch Kenny G, is exactly what he’s doing. It’s a nice little trick, but in the music world we figured out what they were doing. So if you hear this [INAUDIBLE]—- so Clark Terry figures this out. And when we start– we’re going to listen to some of his music. He will play these incredibly long musical lines and he never takes a breath. He just keeps going because he figures out this trick that is going on. Now, when Clark Terry was going at the end of his one year with this carnival, he realized that he doesn’t make really any money. The carnival takes every bit of money he was going to make, so when it was time to go home, he had no money to get home. So the leader decides, we’ll let you go with this. But you can’t ride in the cab of the truck with us. You’re going to have to get into back with the animals. And he’s like, I don’t want to do this, but he has to get home. So Clark tells this great story about him getting in the back, and there’s this monkey in a cage. And the monkey’s looking at him and he’s looking at the monkey, and it’s almost like he can read the monkey’s mind going, what are you doing back here, as Clark is saying, what are you doing looking at me being back here? I want to go home just like you. So they developed this respect. If you don’t do anything, I won’t do anything. He said he remembers that monkey, and he says I never, ever want to be back here again. So when he makes it back to St. Louis, he kisses the ground, and he starts playing different venues and clubs. And all of a sudden, he finds himself, of course, in the Navy. And then after that, he goes to two iconic bands. The first band that he gets involved in, which is the Count Basie band. The Count Basie band– Count Basie he is one of these performers since moving out. We’re talking specifically African-American. So he’s watching this band growing, and the leader is growing him. Especially– I talked about the improvisation, which is a huge part of jazz. And he told him, slow down. Actually use this space and use the rhythm section in your solos because that’s a part of it. It’s not about how many notes you can play, even though it’s great. But listen to the time. Now, with Count Basie, to prove this point, there’s a piece that’s written by Neil Hefti call “Little Darling,” and it kind of goes, be bum, bum, bum, bum, boo doo da. When he first wrote it, it was at a medium tempo. So it was like, be bum, bum, bum, bum, boo do da. So it was faster. And Count Basie, once the band read it the first time, he was like, no, Neil, no. We need to slow this down. Let me show you. So he re-does it, and it becomes be bum, bum, bum, bum, boo do dum. And it goes this whole way, and you just lay back and the tune really swings hard to show that Count Basie really had this wonderful feel of how music should go. And Clark Terry is picking up on all of this, and Clark calls this whole initiation or acceptance into the jazz genre. So as he’s going through this whole thing of learning what Count Basie’s doing, in 1951 something else happens to Clark. He meets Duke Ellington. And he’s like, I saw Duke. He’s the reason why I’m doing this. So Duke Ellington hears him in 1951 and says, I like the way that Clark Terry plays, and I want that sound in my band. So what happens? Duke approaches him and said, hey, I want you to be a part of my band. Clark goes, yeah, I want to do that. But I’m in Count Basie’s band. He’s like, yeah, I know. I’ve got a plan. You’re going to take a leave of absence because you’re sick, and go back home to St. Louis. And when the band travels through, you meet up with us, and you’re in the Duke Ellington band. Great, that works for me. So he has to go to Count Basie and tell Basie, hey, man, I need to take a leave of absence. Well, at the same time, Count Basie has come up with this thing or, I don’t want to lose this kid. He’s great. So with him being great, all of a sudden, he wants to keep me in. So in keeping him in, he gives him a raise in $15. Guys, $15 back that was a lot of money. That was a lot of money. So he gives him this raise, but he goes to him, he’s counting on this money to get him all the way through. So he goes, hey, man, I need to pick up my money. I’ve got to go back to St. Louis. So Count Basie pays him all the money minus the $15. And he goes– but he knew we couldn’t say anything about it because then that would give up that he was actually leaving the band. So he couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. So he goes back home, meets up with Duke Ellington, and he begins to play in the Duke Ellington band. Duke Ellington is extremely instrumental in growing him. He plays with Duke Ellington basically from 1951 until 1959. And this time she grows and he does a lot of things. Before I play a clip for you with him playing with the Duke Ellington band, it’s important to know that we have this one thing that’s [INAUDIBLE] that Duke Ellington– not Duke Ellington, but Clark Terry doesn’t get his money from Count Basie, and he feels like he needs to clear the air. So finally, years later, he goes back to Count and says, hey, man. You remember this situation? And he says, yeah. He’s like, man, you realize you never paid me that $15 for that. He says, yeah, I know, because I knew you were leaving the band. He was like, man, the whole time? So then he said he wanted to go back and get the air cleared. They both laughed about this situation, that they were able to be friends and it wasn’t in between. And meeting Clark Terry, he’s one of these people who he’s very integral. He’s always good to his word, and he tells you exactly what he’s thinking. But he does it in a nice way sometimes, and he is just integral, 100%. So when he joins there the Duke Ellington band, he’s able to be around really great players– Johnny Hodges, who’s playing alto sax. He has Tricky Sam Nanton, one of my favorite players on trombone, Lawrence Brown on trombone. So he’s around all these guys, and he’s also around great trumpet players. So in this we’re going to watch a little scene of them playing. This is– playing, this is Cat Anderson on trumpet, known for his high playing. Hopefully, you guys can hear that. [MUSIC PLAYING] This is actually Clark Terry playing. And this is Shorty. Can you guess why his name was Shorty? Shorty Baker. Ray Nance, wonderful hand player, [INAUDIBLE] player. Listen to the way he uses space. So we can stop right there. So this just shows that she’s using things that she’s learned in Count Basie’s band as he’s moving forward into Duke Ellington’s band. So it’s just it’s him just growing and growing as a player. After he leaves– he stays with Duke Ellington all the way until 1959. He leaves then and he begins to– he joins Quincy Jones, and he’s playing with Quincy Jones’s orchestra. And during this time, they do a piece called “Free and Easy.” It was premiered, and once it was premiered, it didn’t get great reviews. But it pushed Clark Terry’s name more out in front. All of a sudden, he’s becoming one of the jazz people on the scene that people need to reckon with. The reason this [INAUDIBLE] also was important, it was during this time that the Urban League actually approached NBC and was wondering why there were not more African-Americans in television. And of course, at the time it was stated that it was African-Americans couldn’t play on TV. So the Urban League decided to send a questionnaire out– are you saying that African-Americans cannot play? And they say, so on the questionnaire it says, who can play studio music, who could read music, who could play in a trumpet section, and who could play first trumpet, which first trumpet being in the highest part. And the name that kept coming up and up again was Clark Terry. So Clark Terry actually got hired from being in maybe a lackluster opera playing the trumpet, but it was enough to get his name pushed to the front. When he was hired to play on television, his career really took off. He started playing not only for the television station. He start recording more, he started getting gigs, doing jingles, all over the place. He’s playing so much music at this time, and that’s what he’s wanting to do. But as he was on TV, he realized that he was a model. He was a role model for– everyone was looking at him. He knew his suit had to look good. His shirt couldn’t be dirty. His pants has to be creased. He had to be on time. There were things that had to happen because this is what was expected, and he knew that he was paving the way for others to follow behind him. So he took on that responsibility, and he really began to grow. All of a sudden he fires us up on The Tonight Show band. So he’s playing with The Tonight Show band, and in The Tonight Show band there’s a wonderful thing called Stump the Band segment. Basically, what Stump the Band is, I would go out to here– Johnny Carson would go out, and he goes, OK, it’s your time to name a tune to see if the band can do it. Usually, the band was great unless they did some song called “Camp Wackadoo” or something they learned at some children’s camp. Then it was like, yeah, we don’t know this. So the audience member who could do that would win maybe some cheap dinner someplace. So that’s what he did, but this is when Clark Terry developed something great. And that’s something he does it’s called The Mumbles. And so basically, it would be like playing 12-bar blues under him, and on that 12-bar blues, he would just [MUMBLING]. He just makes up any syllables, just kind of like he’s mumbling. Basically, this kind of comes out of a thing of when he was in St. Louis, there was a person in the street who would like to partake of spirits. And when he took of too many spirits, he would just– [MUMBLING] No one knew what he was– but you almost knew what he was saying because of his facial gestures. So Clark Terry takes this and actually makes it part of his gimmick, his thing that he does. And he actually is really known for doing it. Clark Terry, during his time that he’s working, he’s working a lot. And he’s working on The Tonight Show, he does something that is unique. He begins to go out into schools. He’s teaching about jazz education and the importance of moving jazz forward, and so he’s out with several more people on The Tonight Show band. And while he’s doing this, he realizes that these kids are really taking to it. So we also get him going to schools, he’s traveling, he’s doing summer camps, he’s doing youth camps. And so finally, he establishes the Clark Terry Institute of Jazz Studies. So this is this big Institute where students are going to learn more about this language of jazz. And also during this time that he’s– well, before we jump there, we need to hear what Clark Terry sounded like when he went to The Tonight Show band. You will hear the growth and the amount of things that he’s doing. Remember space, but also remember earlier in the lecture we talked about circular breathing, which allows him to play long phrases without taking a breath. Let’s see if he’s able to accomplish this. [MUSIC PLAYING] [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] So you see he was able to go a long– play a lot of notes, use time, and to be able to make these long phrases where people like me, mere mortals, have to take a breath because I can’t go that long. I can’t circular breathe. Well, he’s doing mentoring, he’s working, he’s doing things with the NAACP, he’s working with Bob Brookmeyer. He’s spending long hours just working all the time. There’s many accounts of him staying up to 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, gigging and working, and getting up to be at the studio at 8 o’clock in the morning ready to play. So he’s not spending a lot of time [INAUDIBLE],, but he realizes his time at the NAACP is extremely important. He’s fighting for racial equality all over the United States. He feels like this is something that is his task, something that he must do. So he takes it on full fledged. And at the same time, he’s still mentoring. He mentors two important brothers, and those two important brothers are Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis. Wynton Marsalis is important because he has taken up this whole mantle of jazz education, in which he is going through [INAUDIBLE]. He’s in charge of Jazz at Lincoln Center now. So we’re seeing that he is working hard to further the message in the language of jazz. And Branford Marsalis, who is his brother, who replaces Doc Severinsen, who was actually instrumental in getting Clark Terry hired, also he takes over Doc Severinsen’s role as the leader of The Tonight Show band in 1997. Well, this brings me to what’s the most important part to me. I actually had a chance to meet Clark Terry January 13, 2015. I actually went to his house, and I am extremely, extremely grateful to his wonderful wife, Gwen. They just really welcomed me in and a colleague of mine, and so I decided to take a lesson with Clark Terry. Now, what’s weird about this lesson– Clark, at this point, is 94 years old. He’s blind, he’s almost deaf, he has two legs amputated from his bout with diabetes. But still, in all of that, he still was really modeling in giving us a lesson. And while we were– we were talking about the jazz language, how to do doodle time, which is this fast tonguing, going up and down the scales in order to create solos, and to deepen our knowledge of improvisation. So he’s going through– and Clark was a tough teacher at 94. Do not be fooled and think 94-year-old people aren’t tough. They’re really tough and they’re really demanding. I was over and he was like, come here, boy. Let’s see what you got. I was over there, and I’d go, [SINGING].. He said, [INAUDIBLE],, you ain’t getting it. Get over in that corner and try again. So I would come back. And this lesson started somewhere around 7 or 8 o’clock at night. It ended about 12:30. So for all of you who take lessons and you have an hour lesson, wah. You have not been beaten until you’ve been beat by a 94-year-old man with no legs who can’t see you. That does something. So we were there, but it was great because I didn’t want to leave. So I had to rush to get back. Actually, I was driving back here to teach at Southwestern, so I left at 12:30 and drove from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, back here. He was actually artist in residence at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, UAPB, and that’s where I was able to see him. Clark felt that it was extremely important that what he was doing was passing on everything that he learned to the next generation. So I want to read this one thing that I actually wrote about Clark a while ago. It says, Clark Terry was a musician educator, and his story is one of determination, love of people and the music, and covered under the umbrella of responsibility to pass on everything he learned along his journey. That’s exactly what he did. And my job is to take everything that I have worked it’s a passing out to all of you. So in essence, you guys have become students of Clark Terry just about being here and listening to what’s going on and who he was. Before this, many of you may have not even known who Clark Terry was. But now you’ve been exposed to him. I invite you to learn more and more about Clark Terry. You will be inspired by his story. You will be inspired by the things he had to go through, and still he overcame and was able to give the next generation and generations after a rich knowledge of the history that belongs to us, which is jazz. So what I would like to leave you with is this one thing, and that is the mumbles. Nonsense words, but it was great. Before I do, I’d like to think Dr. Malcolm [INAUDIBLE].. I’d like the thank Dr, [INAUDIBLE] for inviting me to always be a part of these series. But it’s always wonderful and it’s always great to see you guys come out and listen to stories about jazz and jazz musicians. So here is the mumbles. [MUSIC PLAYING] [MUMBLING] But you know, if I keep talking like this, [INAUDIBLE] Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

Want more ThoughtHub content?
Join the 3000+ people who receive our newsletter.

*ThoughtHub is provided by SAGU, a private Christian university offering more than 60 Christ-centered academic programs – associates, bachelor’s and master’s and doctorate degrees in liberal arts and bible and church ministries.